Former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, has said that investment in teachers to be professional is key to quality education.
She spoke at her 60th birthday symposium in Abuja, which was graced by eminent personalities and statesmen, including the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi; John Cardinal Onaiyekan and Tonye Cole. Former president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirlea, joined the symposium virtually.
Ezekwesili said, while serving as Nigeria’s Minister of Education from 2006 to 2007, she was more interested in programmes that would ensure the Nigerian child was learned, rather than awarding contracts to friends and cronies.
At the symposium, friends, family and professional colleagues of the former Vice President, Africa, of the World Bank, paid tribute to her dedication to education and her role in transforming the several sectors of the nation as a public servant.
She noted that Nigeria had failed to implement necessary reforms to upgrade teachers’ certification and their basic professionalism since 1986.
“We are a society that likes to see people that build concretes, classrooms, toilets and fences. What they do not know is that when they prioritise most of those things, it is for contract awards.
“I had no time for that (contract awards) in education because I was interested in things that ensured our children were learning.
“We needed to upgrade teachers’ certification and their basic professionalism to be in the classroom. This was something that had been recommended 20 years before I became a minister (1986), but it was never implemented. I saw this as a priority, and that was what we focused on,” she said.
The one known as Madam Due Process during Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency further explained that during her tenure as education minister, she helped 140,000 teachers to obtain a minimum of National Certificate of Education and later a degree in Education.
This, she said, was part of efforts to improve the quality of teaching in Nigeria.
“I believed that investing in the professionalism of our teachers was key to improving the quality of education in Nigeria. That was why we embarked on the Teachers’ Upgrade Programme, which saw 140,000 teachers obtain NCE or BA/BSc degrees in education,” she said.
Ezekwesili stressed that Nigeria needed a more holistic approach to education reform, which would involve improving the quality of teachers, curriculum development and learning infrastructure.
“We need to focus on improving the quality of teachers, developing a curriculum that is relevant to the needs of our society, and ensuring that we have the necessary infrastructure to support learning,” she added.
She called for a renewed commitment to education reform in Nigeria, stating that it was crucial to the country’s development.
“Education is the key to unlocking the potential of our youth and driving development in Nigeria. We need to renew our commitment to education reform and ensure that every Nigerian child has access to quality education,” she said.